First Frontier League Season a Success for Boulders
Rockland County, NY - Baseball was back this summer!
After the Frontier League cancelled the 2020 season because of the pandemic, the 2021 campaign, the New York Boulders' 10th year of play and first as a member of the Frontier League, can only be called a success after enthusiastic and excited fans made their way into Palisades Credit Union Park to watch a new-look team contend for a division title right up until the final week of the season.
As a first-year member of the Frontier League, the Boulders needed to construct a 2021 roster from scratch. The result was a lot of new names for the fans to learn, though several faces were recognizable because of their local roots.
Former North Rockland High School southpaw Dan Wirchansky would evolve into the starting rotation ace for first-year manager T.J. Stanton, while catcher Phil Capra, a product of North Salem High School, would prove his worth both at bat and behind the plate.
The roster would take a pair of early season hits when righthanded pitcher Brian Rapp would be signed by the Toronto Blue Jays and shortstop Austin Dennis would ink a deal with the Kansas City Royals, the deals showing the level of talent that the Frontier League and Boulders possessed.
The new names would become familiar to fans as the season progressed with one, Zach Penprase, catching the eye of local and national media. Penprase, 36, took over as the team's primary shortstop when Dennis left in the season's first month, but that was not the reason for the increased interest - that was because Penprase was playing with the Boulders and biding his time until the Tokyo Olympics when he would join the Israeli National Baseball Team.
On July 12, the Boulders hosted Team Israel on their pre-Olympic tour - and that game gave the fans one last chance to say good-bye to Penprase, who would retire from baseball at the conclusion of the Tokyo Games.
The game with Team Israel came just a little over a week after one of the most exciting finishes to a Boulders' game this season.
On July 3, the Boulders trailed the Washington Wild Things, 4-1, entering their final at-bat.
Facing Wild Things' closer Zach Strecker, with one out, Milton Smith, Jr. reached on an error. Jack Sundberg followed with a single to out runners on first and second for Zach Kirtley, who singled in Smith, Jr.
With runners on the corners, Tucker Nathans then took Strecker's first pitch to him over the wall in left field for the game-winning three-run home run.
The celebration was one worthy of a walk-off 5-4 victory - and was followed by a Firework's Extravaganza. The Fourth of July Weekend was the place to be as fans flocked to PCU Park for baseball and fireworks.
Fireworks, theme nights, giveaways, family fun and entertainment and quality baseball - and the desire to finally get back to enjoy an outdoor activity - helped the Boulders to a successful season at the gate as they finished third in the Frontier League in attendance.
On Wednesday, Aug. 4, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York and an avid baseball fan, visited PCU Park to take in a Boulders' game with the New Jersey Jackals.
While the team stayed in the Atlantic Division race until the final week before settling for a third-place finish, the fans were given a few moments in Boulders' history that they will remember.
In a Sept. 10 7-5 win down in Little Falls against the New Jersey Jackals, Sundberg set a Boulders' single season stolen base mark when he swiped second base in the second inning for his 48th steal of the year. Heading into the game, Sundberg was tied with Junior Arrojo, who stole 47 bases back in 2016.
Meanwhile, first baseman Ray Hernandez held on down the stretch of the season to become the fourth Boulder to win a league home run title.
Hernandez completed the year with 23 home runs, closing out the season by connecting for three home runs in the final five games of the schedule to seal the crown.
Hernandez, a 25-year-old first baseman from Orlando, FL, who stands at 6'3" and weighs in at 220, is the fourth Boulder to lead the league in home runs - and the first to pace the Frontier League.
The first three led the Can-Am League - Keith Brachold back in 2012 with 29, Marcus Nidifer's 22 pacing the league in 2015, and Joe Maloney finishing atop the league in 2017 with a Boulders' single-season record 35.
When the team awards were handed out at the final home game, Hernandez was named the fan's favorite player, while Wirchansky was tabbed as the top pitcher, catcher Gian Martellini as the top rookie, centerfielder Milton Smith, Jr. as the top defensive player and second baseman Zach Kirtley as the team MVP.
Meanwhile, Sundberg, who quietly put together an outstanding season, was named the winner of the Johnny Thompson Extra Effort Award.
Sundberg gave the Boulders' solid defensive play in left field, finished the season with a .294 batting average and set the single season stolen base mark.
Information New York Boulders' 2022 season tickets and packages are available by calling 845-364-0009 or sliding to www.NYBoulders.com. Individual game tickets are on sale now.
Debuting in 1993, the Frontier League is the largest and longest-running of the modern independent leagues and features teams stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River and from the Ohio River to the St. Lawrence Seaway. In September of 2020, the Frontier League reached an agreement to become a "Partner League" with Major League Baseball.
As a "Partner League," the Frontier League and its teams will meet on a regular basis with MLB representatives to discuss joint marketing and promotional opportunities, as well as collaborate on initiatives to provide organized baseball to communities throughout the United States and Canada.
More information can be found at www.frontierleague.com.
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Frontier League Stories from September 20, 2021
- First Frontier League Season a Success for Boulders - New York Boulders
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